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Henry Rawlinson on the Behistun inscription: key to the translations of Ashurbanipal’s library

Previously: — Writing: It started with the Sumerians  — The library of Ashurbanipal: its discovery changed our view of history The discovery of Ashurbanipal’s Library and its treasure of ancient clay tablets that contained writing up to 3,000 years old stands as one of the great archeological finds of the modern era. The discovery came in […]

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The father of modern horror literature, grammar rules to live without, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, January 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,6xx) on Friday, January 17, 2020.   {% if subscriber.first_name != blank %} Hello {{ subscriber.first_name }}, {% else %} Hello, {% endif %} News from Major League Baseball in January is never plentiful, and what there was this week was not good: two team managers were fired […]

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AustenHenryLayard 1

Writing: It started with the Sumerians

The earliest writing that is anything close to what we do today comes from the Sumerians, the ancient civilization that occupied the Tigris and Euphrates valley (now Iraq and Iran) more than 3,000 years ago. Paper and ink, as we know it, were nonexistent then in that part of the world. Instead, the Sumerians made […]

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Lyndon Johnson

Gulf of Tonkin – the debate continues

My current involvement in our Vietnam Voices project (see last week’s newsletter) has provoked discussions among some of my good friends about the incident cited most often as the spark for the American escalation of forces in that country in 1964 and 1965 — the attack on U.S. naval vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin. […]

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Mr.Lindoln in sepia

The significance of Nov. 22, the politics of pronouns, and the impact of World War I: newsletter, Nov. 22, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,663) on Friday, November 22, 2019.   Thanksgiving is upon us, and it is, for many reasons, my favorite holiday. Good food and a bit of idleness, along with some crisp fall weather, are on my agenda. Whatever is on yours, I hope that it […]

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World War I and the great changes it wrought

I am a great advocate of the Great War, more often called World War I. It’s not that I think that it should have happened, of course, but I think the all-inclusiveness and horror of World War II often overshadow it, and its influence on our politics and our society is frequently forgotten. People who […]

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November 22 will always be a date set apart

The special significance of November 22 remains hard to match for Americans who are slightly younger and my age or older. Many believe that September 11, 2001, is the equivalent for today’s young adults, but I have my doubts. The triple blows of Sept. 11 coming from a foreign source were horrible. But the shock […]

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Breen’s research on the truly Revolutionary War

Just how revolutionary was the American Revolutionary War? Pretty revolutionary, according to historian T. H. Breen, who has written a recently-published book examining the thinking that went on behind the American colonies’ break with the mother country. What we call the American Revolution cannot be linked to a single moment such as the signing of […]

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The woman who created Nancy Drew, the Ratline podcast, and reader reactions; newsletter, October 18, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,665) on Friday, October 18, 2019.     Rain finally arrived in East Tennessee this week after an absence of about 45 days. It was greatly welcomed. There wasn’t a lot of rain but enough to begin turning the ground from brown to green. The hope […]

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The Grapes of Wrath, written in 100 days, by a man with a mission

It took John Steinbeck less than 100 days in 1937 to write one of the 20th century’s great novels, The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck was a writer and resident of Salinas, California, at the time. It was a town located near a migrant worker camp, and Steinbeck had witnessed the poverty, degradation, and oppression of those […]

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Henry Timberlake, his adventure and his sad end (part 1)

Henry Timberlake‘s short life came to a sad end. He died in 1765 in debtor’s prison in London, there because of some unfortunate but well-meaning decisions and some truly bad luck. He was somewhere between 30 and 35 years. We’re not exactly sure when he was born. We probably wouldn’t remember Timberlake at all except […]

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FDR’s wordman, an adventure into Cherokee territory, and a Mozart myth: newsletter, Aug. 30, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,680) on Friday, August 30, 2019.   My comments last week about the difficulties of traveling brought reactions from some of you, and I appreciate your responses. Many people still enjoy traveling despite the hassles. If you’ve been someplace interesting in the last few weeks, let […]

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Teddy Roosevelt: "I am DEE-lighted."

Nigel Hamilton’s FDR, where Joseph Campbell began, John Wesley, and banana peels: newsletter, Aug. 16, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,696) on Friday, August 16, 2019. Two big events this week: the publication of two books that we had been working on for the Friends of the Blount County Library. One is Loyal Mountaineers: The Civil War Memoirs of Will A. McTeer, which we mentioned in the newsletter several […]

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Bouton’s ‘Ball Four,’ mystery recommendations, and Mark Twain’s delight: newsletter, July 26, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, July 26, 2019.   Three weeks ago when we extracted the honey from our beehives, the last part of the process was putting the “wet” frames back onto the hives. These are frames that contain honey, but the amounts are too small […]

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Writing the national anthem, ripping off Dickens, publishing a Civil War memoir: newsletter, July 5, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,747) on Friday, July 5, 2019. I hope that everyone in America (and elsewhere) is having a happy Fourth of July and its aftermath. In America, we celebrate with fireworks, ice cream, baseball, cherry pie, cookouts, and just about anything else we can think of […]

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America’s first female police officer, Dan Jenkins, lots of emails, and a modest proposal: newsletter, March 22, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,866) on Friday, March 22, 2019.   The tractor came out of the barn and had a pretty good workout this week. We had a string of dry days that allowed me — finally! — to get into the garden with some much-needed sub-soiling and […]

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Kate Warne, the world’s first female detective (part 1)

If the name of Kate Warne is unknown to you, you’re not alone. Most of the world has never heard of her, that is too bad — particularly with those of us in the detective-fiction-to-true-crime crowd. Kate Warne, as far as we can tell, is the first woman ever hired as a fulltime, true-to-life detective. […]

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Joseph Priestly’s big writing idea, a winter’s read recommendation, and radio drama from the BBC: newsletter, Dec. 7, 2018

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,977) on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.     In light of the reduction of our beehives, which I reported last week, I have come across a couple of substantial articles about bees and insects in this environment. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance […]

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by Charles Turner, after  James Gillray, mezzotint, published 1819 (circa 1800)

James Gillray: puncturing the pompous with caricature

Caricature is fairly common today (even amateurs like me try their hand at it), but in the late 18th century, it was a newly developing form of art, as well as social and political communication. And no one was better at it — a set a higher standard for others of his and those who […]

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A writer who didn’t want to be edited, the ‘real’ Moriarty, and your good words: newsletter, Nov. 23, 2018

  Thanks for the many emails about the words that we use and the ones we don’t hear enough. This week’s word, of course, is gratitude, in line with the Thanksgiving holiday that Americans have celebrated this week. All of us have much to be thankful for. I do my best to remind myself of that […]

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